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COUNTDOWN TO CAUCUS: Foreign policy a tangible topic on the campaign trail

COUNTDOWN TO CAUCUS: Foreign policy a tangible topic on the campaign trail


Protesters chant slogans while holding up posters of Gen. Qassem Soleimani during a demonstration Sunday in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran.

Foreign policy was not one of the most pressing issues on the minds of Iowa Democrats throughout most of the past year.

Then Republican President Donald Trump ordered a military strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who the administration has said was planning attacks on U.S. interests abroad. Days later, Iran responded with missile strikes on military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. troops. No U.S. troops were killed in the response.

Suddenly, foreign policy became a tangible topic on the caucus campaign trail.

Many of the Democratic candidates said they welcomed the death of Soleimani, but questioned whether the administration had a big-picture plan to keep American interests safe and avoid a protracted military conflict.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, has stressed his foreign affairs experience in pitching to Iowa Democrats that he is the most qualified candidate to command the national stage.

But other candidates are not ceding the foreign policy stage to the former vice president. Bernie Sanders frequently notes his vote against the Iraq War --- and Biden’s support for it. And Pete Buttigieg leans on his military experience as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Most of the candidates have expressed support for reducing if not withdrawing entirely U.S. troops in Middle East countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. That question --- and a timeline on any withdrawal --- is common on the campaign trail from war-weary Democrats.

Some of the Democratic candidates also talk about a need to restore relationships with foreign allies. They say Trump has frayed some of those relationships.

Many of the candidates also have expressed support for overhauling post-9/11 legislation that gave the president broader authority to approve military action without Congressional consent. Many Democrats have said that authority should be limited, and power to authorize war should be restored to Congress.

What do the candidates say?

  • Updated

Served for seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in U.S. Navy Reserve“End the endless war” in Afghanistan through negotiated peace agree…

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​​Restore America's image with the world and rebuild relationships with other countriesReenter the United States into the Iran nuclear dealWor…

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Reduce defense spending about 11%Opposes war with IranIn Afghanistan, would bring home troops “immediately”Supports two-state solution between…

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Implement a foreign policy that focuses on human rights, economic fairness, democracyReenter the United States into the Iran Nuclear Agreement…

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​Strengthen sanctions against RussiaRenew committments to the UN and NATORestore American leadership by rebuilding and fully funding the State…

Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times. 


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